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After Pulwama pause, Congress to step up Lok Sabha elections campaign with Rahul Gandhi rallies

Over the past few months, Congress launched an all-out offensive against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over several issues, including the Rafale jet deal, jobs and farm crisis, among others.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 06, 2019 07:27 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
lok sabha election 2019,rahul gandhi election rallies,congress campaign
Rahul Gandhi addressing at a pubilc rally in Ranchi, March 2, 2019.  The Congress president will address election rallies across the country this week. (ANI )

The Congress, which appeared to have lost the momentum ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 Indian security men, is aiming to gain ground with a series of nationwide election rallies to be addressed by party chief Rahul Gandhi this week.

Over the past few months, the principal opposition party launched an all-out offensive against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over several issues, including the Rafale jet deal, jobs and farm crisis, among others.

But after the February 14 suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and ensuing tensions between India and Pakistan, it put off its campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Congress general secretary and east Uttar Pradesh incharge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and party general secretary and west UP incharge Jyotiraditya Scindia cancelled their news conference in Lucknow on the day of the attack. The two leaders wrapped up their first four-day visit to UP on February 14. During that visit, they held marathon meetings with party leaders and workers from different constituencies with the interactions stretching from 12 pm to 5am in the morning.

The next day, Rahul Gandhi told reporters in New Delhi the Congress would not have any conversations for some time and maintained that his party stood united with the soldiers and the government.

“It was deliberate on our part to go slow. We didn’t want to politicise the issue and were keen to project a picture of unity at the time of crisis. Unfortunately, the BJP does not think that way and for them elections are more important than everything else,” said a Congress strategist who did not want to be named.

The Congress president did address a rally in Assam on February 26, the day Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out air strikes on a terror camp in Pakistan in response to the Pulwama attack.

But the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting and a public rally in Ahmedabad on February 28 was cancelled following an aerial dogfight between India and Pakistan a day before. An Indian pilot, whose plane crashed on the Pakistani side, was captured by the neighbouring country and returned on March 1.

The CWC has now been scheduled for March 12 in Ahmedabad, and it will be followed by a public meeting.

Rahul Gandhi also addressed election rallies in Mumbai and Dhule (Maharashtra) on March 1, followed by a public meeting in Ranchi (Jharkhand) on March 2.

He will interact with envoys and senior diplomats of G-20 nations and neighbouring countries over lunch on Wednesday to outline his party’s foreign policy stance.

The luncheon meeting is part of the Congress party’s outreach to key players in the diplomatic community ahead of the general elections.

On March 7, the Congress chief will address a rally in Moga (Punjab) and Chambi (Himachal Pradesh). He will then travel to Odisha and Goa on March 8. He will be in Karnataka and Telangana on March 9, and address booth workers in Delhi on March 11.

Priyanka Gandhi and Scindia are expected to undertake their second visit to UP soon. The party has categorised the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state in different categories. Seventeen seats have been put in the “high-priority” category, nine are in “priority” and the remaining are in “others” category.

First Published: Mar 06, 2019 07:26 IST